Higher Order Thinking

Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher order thinking? Here’s an infographic reminder, just in case:

We are following our extensive study of Beatrix Potter with another woman of about the same time…Georgia O’Keeffe. As is our routine, the children looked at several of Ms. O’Keeffe’s paintings for a few days before noting their observations.

The initial comments that the children make tend to be very concrete (“I see a skull” and “I see lots of flowers”, etc.). When those have been exhausted, they begin to note other compositional elements such as the background (“The peaches are on a towel” and “The skull looks like it is on a napkin”). When those peripherals have all been identified, then the children look deeper, and it is exciting to note the higher order thinking that starts to happen. “Beatrix Potter used water colors, but I see Georgia O’Keeffe uses a different kind of paint.” “That painting (of a flower) reminds me of a red forest.” “The black middle of that big flower looks like a turtle.” “She paints very neat(ly), not like John Hoyland.” The children are making connections in ways that are new, all thanks to their immersion in the visual arts.

We also incorporate other elements of visual literacy in our artist study, such as a Venn diagram. This one asks, “Which Georgia O’Keeffe paintings do you like?” and the choices are “flowers”, “skulls”, or “NYC”:

Georgia O'Keeffe Venn diagram

Next, the children had an opportunity to “paint like Georgia”, as recounted in their “experience story”:

“Georgia O’Keeffe

We looked at Georgia’s paintings. We got clipboards and went outside. We found flowers that were growing, and we chose one to sketch. We studied the flowers. We noticed the colors, the shapes of the petals, and the middles. We drew the middle first, and then we drew the petals. Then we painted the flowers with watercolors. We wrote about our paintings.”

Instead of just titling their paintings, this time we asked the children to tell something further about their process, again reaching for some higher order thinking. Here are some examples:



Digging deeper by reflecting on a creative process, especially when accompanied by full immersion in the study of art or an artist, brings about the higher order thinking skills we all want our children to routinely use in our classrooms.

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